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9/22/2010
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WAN Security: Your Next Assignment

Firewalls and IDS aren't enough. WAN security pros must embrace data-centric protection.

Congratulations: WAN security pros have locked down the network layer. Core security technologies such as firewalls and intrusion detection and prevention systems are in place at a majority of companies, according to a recent survey from InformationWeek Analytics. But when it comes to technologies that focus on applications and data, WAN security teams have some catching up to do.

Less than half of respondents use Web application firewalls (see chart). Even more surprising, only 40% have Web or gateway-based antivirus technology in place. In an age when Web ports are wide open on the network firewall, it's astounding that this product isn't more widely deployed.

We're also concerned to see data loss prevention (DLP) technology at the bottom of the list, at 24%. While DLP does present some challenges, we expected a higher level of deployment given the ease with which data can be moved or exposed.

One likely reason is that DLP requires a high level of cooperation and coordination among multiple areas of the business, including management, security, legal, and HR, and such levels of coordination can be difficult to achieve.

DLP also presents technical and operational challenges. The system has to be properly trained to identify confidential information, and companies have to devote resources to monitor the system and respond to policy violations.

DIG DEEPER
WAN Security
Your Next Assignment

That said, the importance of DLP is clear for companies that deal with personally identifiable information such as credit card or Social Security numbers. And don't forget day-to-day business data being passed around in Word and Excel files; it can be even more important than personal information. You may think critical data isn't traversing the WAN, but we'll bet that a closer look at e-mail and Office documents would reveal a mother lode of sensitive information.

We're pleased to see that organizations have heeded the call from WAN security engineers to protect the network. But the landscape has changed, and WAN security must change with it. IT security professionals need to take a more active role in monitoring and protecting the information that flows over WAN pipes, in addition to securing the connections themselves.

chart: What security systems do you have in place for the WAN?

Michael A. Davis is the CEO of Savid Technologies, a technology and security consulting firm based in Chicago. Write to us at [email protected].

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